Of Spies and Spacetime

Stephanie DeMarco interviewed me a few weeks ago for an article she was writing about the science in the TV show Agent Carter (season two). As you know, I did a lot of work for them on the science, some of which I’ve mentioned here, and we spoke about some of that and a lot of interesting other things besides. Well, her article appeared in Signal to Noise magazine, a publication all about communicating science, and it’s really a nice piece. You can read it here. (The excellent title I used for this post is from her article.)

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It is a pity that the show has not been renewed for a third season (I’m trying not […] Click to continue reading this post

A New Era

expo_line_two_opening_1Many years ago, even before the ground was broken on phase one of the Expo line and arguments were continuing about whether it would ever happen, I started saying that I was looking forward to the days when I could put my pen down, step out of my office, get on the train a minute away, and take it all the way to the beach and finish my computation there. Well, Friday, the first such day arrived. Phase two of the Expo line is now complete and has opened to the public, with newly finished stations from Culver City through Santa Monica. It joins the already running (since April 2012) Expo phase one, which I’ve been using every day to get to campus after changing from the Red line (connecting downtown).

expo_line_two_opening_2On Friday I happened to accidentally catch the first Expo Line train heading all the way out to Santa Monica! (I mean the first one for the plebs – there had been a celebratory one earlier with the mayor and so forth, I was told). I was not planning to do so and was just doing my routine trip to campus, thinking I’d try the new leg out later (as I did when phase one opened – see here). But there was a cheer when the train pulled up at Metro/7th downtown and the voice over the overhead speakers […] Click to continue reading this post

Yay, McCloud!

sketch_during_interview_10_april_2016_wide(Click sketch for larger view.) I was only able to make it to one scheduled event in the LA Times Festival of Books this year. (Family constraints.) Normally I go to a few at least, getting my tickets for the panels in advance and going along and listening to authors, writers, editors, and other book-related people having a discussion about some topic or other. If I’m honest, for about 80-85% of such panels or interviews I come away wondering why on earth I went because everyone said the standard things I thought they’d say. But that 10-15% can be great, and you never know where it’ll show up – which event, which writer, during which Q&A… So for that reason I come expecting to get good extra value from listening to the conversations around me in the line and in the audience, and of I course bring my sketchpad and try to see if there’s someone interesting to sketch while I listen.

As usual, for panels involving graphic books or comics, there’s almost always someone in the audience who is working on a sketch of some sort. People who appreciate that form often find value in sketching and often do it (or some sort of doodle) themselves as a pastime, and that’s a great thing. If I’m not the only one and if I’m sitting at the right angle, I often get the fun opportunity to sketch a sketcher, and that is what happened during the interview of Scott McCloud on […] Click to continue reading this post

Wild

wild_flowers_March_2016I got a lot of plants and seeds into the ground early this year, so they got the benefits of some of the rain we had, and got in a good amount of growing before the relentless heat begins. Here is part of a patch of wildflowers that have been putting on a generous display these last several weeks. It has been great to enjoy them with the whole family too – the young gentleman is a big fan of flowers of all kinds.

-cvj Click to continue reading this post

Weekend Reminder

NHM_poster_April_1_2016_2While wandering with the family in the Natural History Museum this weekend, I spotted a reminder (click for larger view) for Friday’s event, which you might be interested in.

I’ll be on a panel about science (particularly space-related) and the movies, with fellow panelist Sean Carroll, and it is hosted by the awesome Patt Morrison! It’s part of the Natural History Museum’s First Fridays series, which you might recall me blogging about here before (actually, last time I was at one, I was a host so I imagine it’ll feel a bit different this time).

Here’s a website with all the details.

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Visualizing Zero Matter

zero-matter-in-actionWired has a video piece about the VFX work done on Agent Carter to bring the substance known as “zero matter” to your screens. They very kindly mentioned me, which is a pleasant surprise. There was a lot of conversation early on with the writers, show runners, and the head of VFX (Sheena Duggal), discussing what it might look like, and what kind of aesthetic drivers were in play for the look of the show overall (less ZAP! and more ooze and flow), and what you see on screen is the result of a lot of that conversation. It’s really great to see so much of what we brainstormed make it up on screen. The main physics input I wanted to use as a guide was the idea that this is some sort of special fluid from “elsewhere”, in a very special physical phase (inspired by various super fluids and perfect fluids in actual physics from our world, which I explained a bit about to them…Sheena was also very taken with ferrofluids, which was a very smart design input to use as reference). We also talked a lot about the idea that zero matter manifests itself in different ways depending upon the biology of the host. (See a post I did about other aspects of zero matter here, including the naming of it, and “elsewhere”.)

The amazing company Double Negative played a huge role overall, doing the rendering and bringing all sort of techniques to bear to make it all work. You’ll maybe recognize that name since they were the people who worked with physicist Kip Thorne […] Click to continue reading this post

On Zero Matter

zero-matter-containedOver at Marvel, I chatted with actor Reggie Austin (Dr. Jason Wilkes on Agent Carter) some more about the physics I helped embed in the show this season. It was fun. (See an earlier chat here.) This was about Zero Matter itself (which will also be a precursor to things seen in the movie Dr. Strange later this year)… It was one of the first things the writers asked me about when I first met them, and we brainstormed about things like what it should be called (the name “dark force” comes later in Marvel history), and how a scientist who encountered it would contain it. This got me thinking about things like perfect fluids, plasma physics, exotic phases of materials, magnetic fields, and the like (sadly the interview skips a lot of what I said about those)… and to the writers’ and show-runners’ enormous credit, lots of these concepts were allowed to appear in the show in various ways, including (versions of) two containment designs that I sketched out. Anyway, have a look in the embed below.

Oh! The name. We did not settle on a name after the first meeting, but one of […] Click to continue reading this post

Suited Up!

war_gear_smYes, I was in battle again. A persistent skunk that wants to take up residence in the crawl space. I got rid of it last week, having found one place it broke in. This involved a lot of crawling around on my belly armed with a headlamp (not pictured – this is an old picture) and curses. I’ve done this before… It left. Then yesterday I found a new place it had broken in through and the battle was rejoined. Interestingly, this time it decided to hide after some of the back and forth and I lost track of it for a good while and was about to give up and hope it will feel unsafe with all the lights I’d put on down there (and/or encourage it further to leave by deploying nuclear weapons to match the ones it comes armed with*).

In preparation for this I left open the large access hatch and sprinkled a layer […] Click to continue reading this post

WSJ Piece On Science and Entertainment

wall_street_journal_snapIt’s nice to be on the front page of the Wall Street Journal this morning when my mum is visiting me. But where does one go to actually buy a newspaper?!

The nice piece, by Erich Schwartzel, is about the work the Science and Entertainment exchange, working with scientists like myself does in the entertainment industry. It opens by reporting on a conversation I was having at that Back to the Future […] Click to continue reading this post

Gown Uses…

Well, finally since arriving here in 2003 I’ve found a good use for the academic gown that sits on a hook on the back of my door! It is a master’s gown from Durham University. I had it while I was on the faculty there as I’d joined the excellent University College (housed in the awesome Durham Castle) so that I could have dinner at high table there from time to time (largely because of the aforementioned Castle). Since leaving there and coming here, it has sat largely undisturbed. But today, while crossing campus in a wonderful downpour, my trouser legs got rather soaked (umbrellas and trenchcoats have their limitations), and so I’m now sitting in my office trouser-less while they dry. Needless to say, my door is closed, and just in case […] Click to continue reading this post

The New Space…

office_drawing_final copyI forgot to mention that (after a lot of delays and internal administrative nonsense that I will spare you the details of) I was finally able to move into my new office, toward the end of November, only several months after the move was first put into motion. In the first week of the holiday period I was able to do some unpacking of some of the books (etc) and setting up various things (like my kettle and coffee pot) essential for the kind of working space I want it to be. It’ll be an interesting space, from some points of view… perhaps unusually combining production of objects and ideas from both the science and the art worlds, and lots in between. As you know, I have several projects that involve both, and they’ll come together in this space.

I updated the drawing (click for larger view) to include some adjustments I made to the layout* (see […] Click to continue reading this post

Tales from the Industry XXXXII – Equation Wrangler (Again)

notes_for_a_show_smallThose pages of notes are from a couple of weeks back (I did not get time to post about it – been busy). I’ve had to blur pretty much everything on them since although they were real physics computations, they are for an episode of the TV show Agent Carter, and a few of you might be able to read the equations and with a bit of educated guesswork perhaps figure out elements of the show. I don’t reveal details of that sort without permission, as you know by now. Anyway, it was interesting to do (on this and some other occasions for this show), since from the scripts I get to interpret what I think the scientist involved is thinking about and working on at a very technical level, and then create some of their scribblings that you’ll see when looking over their shoulder. This case was particularly fun to do since a lot of the material is […] Click to continue reading this post